Below is the obituary written by the Times last Friday of my favourite political opponent, Peter Clarke, who died recently was the most entertaining and delightfully outrageous Tory of his epoch. The Times drew heavily on a blog I wrote about him a few years ago while including some fascinating new insights into Peter's relationships and alleged relationships with women. If only more Tories were like him.
My favourite opponent,
In 1997 the Newport West Tory candidate was Peter Clarke. I was sorry to hear today from the Times newspaper that he had died. Tomorrow they will include some of the blog below in their account of his fascinating life.
A few days after he was adopted I raised a point or Order in the Commons about an article he had written in the Scottish Edition of The Sunday Times,
“It is many years since anyone was called to the Bar of the House, but Erskine May makes clear your powers to summons here those who besmirch the good names of members. Have you read, Madam Speaker, the attack on the Secretary of State for Wales (William Hague) in which he was unfairly described as ‘deluded’ and ‘simple’ , for his fine work in bringing 6,000 Korean jobs to Wales he was accused of ‘pimping for Britain.’
Will you now call to the bar of the House and insist on an apology from the Conservative candidate for Newport West. ?”
There were better things to come from the colourful Mr Clarke. He had been a candidate before and amazed party and public.
Peterclarke Standing in East Lothian in 1987 he advocated, declaring war on South Africa, the privatisation of police and fire brigades, lowering the school leaving age to twelve, ending all dole or social security payments, the abolition of all local councils, a tax on golf, and the demolition of all un-sold council houses. He said ‘General Pinochet must be our inspiration’ and that ‘Enoch Powell is the greatest Welshman of all time’. He described Mrs Thatcher’s conduct on the Anglo Irish Agreement as ‘treacherous and foolish’ and threatened to stand as an Orangeman’s candidate in East Lothian. He also volunteered to serve in the American Cavalry but he was rejected.
There was only one public debate at St Mark’s Church in the heart of Newport in the 1997 election. Arthur Scargill was one of speakers as a candidate in Newport East. Arthur’s plan to double pensions next Thursday seemed measured and reasonable compared with Clarke novel remedy.
His answer to pensioner poverty was to ship all the pensioners to Eritrea. The audience were white faced with shock. He did not spend enough time explaining the advantages to the elderly. On a British state pension someone in Eritrea could afford the best mud hut in the village or the finest meal of locusts that money could buy.
Davies moaned that life was unbearable in the Conservative Party office surrounded by octogenarian ladies reminiscing about when they were canvassing for Stanley Baldwin.
In Wales on Sunday on the April 27th, four days before polling day, Peter Clarke complained that he had been the victim of menacing phone calls. They were the latest in a series of incidents since ‘he helped fund a manifesto produced by Scottish Conservative Students that advocated a relaxation of the incest laws.’
Wales on Sunday quoted him saying ‘Malicious and unfounded allegations that I am a paedophile have followed me around ever since. The reason I am standing in Newport is that I am barred from standing in Scotland, where I am from, because of these malicious allegations.’ On Sundays the Labour Campaign in Newport West meet to discuss the week’s strategy. After reading the Wales on Sunday on April 27th many of our team decamped to the marginal seat of Monmouth.
The Labour majority doubled in Newport West to a record 14,800. Monmouth was gained for Labour from Tory Roger Evans. Thanks, Peter.
Will ye no come back again?
Conservative Party maverick married to Teresa Gorman MP and embroiled in a libel action over the relaxation of incest laws
Clarke claimed he was blackballed because his policies were ahead of their time.
Peter Clarke belonged to a wing of the Conservative Party perhaps best described as “swivel-eyed”. He advocated privatising police forces and fire brigades, lowering the school leaving age to 12, removing all social security and unemployment benefits, abolishing local councils, taxing golf, demolishing unsold council houses and declaring war on South Africa.
In 1986 he told the Conservative Party conference that “General Pinochet must be our inspiration”. On other occasions he declared that Enoch Powell, his political hero, was “the greatest Welshman of all time”; William Hague, the Welsh secretary, was “pimping for Britain” by bringing 6,000 Korean jobs to Wales; Margaret Thatcher’s conduct on the Anglo-Irish agreement was “treacherous and foolish”; and the answer to pensioner poverty was to ship the elderly to Eritrea where on a British state pension they “could afford the best mud hut in the village or the finest meal of locusts that money could buy”.
Between dreaming up these policies he claimed to have had an affair with Edwina Currie at the same time as her relationship with John Major, alleging that she seduced him with the line: “Would you like to come and see my Peak District?” Clarke, who at the time was a speechwriter for Sir Keith Joseph, the education secretary, said he ended the affair because of sheer physical fatigue: “She was quite athletic. I just closed my eyes and thought of Scotland.” Currie denied knowing him.
More seriously he won a pyrrhic victory to clear his name after allegations surfaced that he had advocated a relaxation of incest laws. In 1986 he had agreed to donate £200 to the Federation of Conservative Students to help to pay for the printing costs of a pamphlet that, unbeknown to him, included proposals to bring certain Scottish and English laws into line regarding sexual relationships. Clarke insisted that he was unaware of the contents of the pamphlet. However, his many political enemies — both inside and outside the party — spotted the word “incest”, saw an opportunity and took it.
When the allegation was repeated once too often he successfully sued The Independent over an article published in 1989, winning £20,000 damages. However, he was left with a bill for costs of £600,000 that effectively ruined him. He lost his home and there was no money to pay for the many other libel actions that he believed should be pursued. Despite his court vindication, it was a long time until a local party would touch him. He claimed to have been blackballed, arguing that the Conservative high command was waging a dirty tricks war against him because he was ahead of his time with his maverick policies. “I am still crushed by a matter the Tory party could have resolved in ten minutes’ diligence,” he said in 2006.
Peter Derek Clarke was born in April 1947 in Venice where his father, Derek, a major in the Royal Signals, was posted. His mother, Denholm (née Pearson), was from Glasgow and Peter went to prep school in Scotland. He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School and spent a year at the University of Bradford before signing on for PPE at the University of Leeds and taking a masters at Balliol College, Oxford.
He became a tutor at Swinton Conservative College near Ripon, North Yorkshire, and in 1973 was selected as the Tory candidate for the safe Labour seat of Houghton-le-Spring, Co Durham, although did not stand at the 1974 election. In 1972 he had been appointed political secretary to Powell and spent some time at Ulster Unionist party headquarters, from whence came his views on Thatcher’s “treachery”. At various times he worked for the BBC, Private Eye and The Scotsman.
In 1975 Clarke married Gillian Strickland, one of the first female reporters at ITN. They had two sons, Alex and Rory, both of whom are in poor health. Gillian died in 2005 and in 2010 he married Teresa Gorman (obituary August 31, 2015), an unashamedly populist and rightwing Tory MP who was 16 years his senior. Newly widowed, she had placed an advert in Private Eye reading: “Old trout seeks old goat. No golfers. Must have own balls.” She received 128 replies, although Clarke denied being one of the respondents. She described him as “very good at looking after things . . . it’s like having a butler”.
In 1986, while working for Lord Hanson’s Businessmen for Britain campaign, Clarke was selected as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the rural East Lothian constituency, but stepped down at about the same time as the incest allegations surfaced, later saying that he had done so because his wife was ill and Lord Hanson had terminated his employment. He was selected to stand for the Tories at Newport West in 1997, although he claimed that his agent received a call from party headquarters urging that he be dropped quietly and discreetly. The agent, assuming it was a slur on his sexuality, replied: “Don’t worry, duckie, we’re all perverts here.”
He told Channel 4: ‘My buttocks are smooth, my mind is clear, vote Ukip’
It was during this campaign that he put forward his policy on pensioner poverty during the sole public debate. Arthur Scargill, the former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers and a candidate in the neighbouring constituency, also spoke. Paul Flynn, the Labour MP who has held the seat since 1987, later recalled: “Arthur’s plan to double pensions ‘next Thursday’ seemed measured and reasonable compared with Clarke’s novel remedy.”
When not fighting his political and legal battles Clarke had a passion for restoring wild animals to the countryside and old houses to their former glory. He helped to found the Wild Beasts Trust in 2006, seeking to reintroduce wolves, bears and lemmings to the British countryside, arguing that they were harmless creatures. “Everyone has Little Red Riding Hood in their mental furniture, but that is far from the reality” he declared of those who feared ending up inside a wolf’s stomach.
The houses were less problematic. His first was Powrie Castle, a 16th- century pile near Dundee. Strickland had won it shortly after their marriage in a competition run by the National Trust for Scotland. They then turned their attention to the old manse at Kirton Manor, near Peebles, but they had to sell up after Clarke’s battle with The Independent. Finally, he restored Kirkhope Tower in the Borders.
At the last election he was doorstepped in Essex by Channel 4 News. He told Michael Crick that he had abandoned the Conservatives, adding for good measure: “My buttocks are smooth, my mind is clear, vote Ukip.”
Peter Clarke, journalist and political activist, was born on April 16, 1947. He died from suspected heart failure on January 24, 2017, aged 69